Advanced Imaging & Radiotherapy
Full project name: Improving a Head and Neck Tumour’s Sensitivity to Radiotherapy Treatment
Low oxygen levels, as often occurs within a tumour mass, can cause tumour cells to switch on a survival mechanism that results in them becoming more resistant to radiotherapy or chemotherapy. This is particularly prominent in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. New targeted agents that can influence the tumour oxygen levels for radiotherapeutic gain, or that target the resultant survival mechanisms, are in development, but it is difficult to accurately assess how well such agents perform in laboratory models in situ.
The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) Tumour Profiling Unit is pioneering the use of cancer ‘avatars’ for head and neck cancers. These avatars could help tailor cancer treatments to patients by matching drugs to a tumour’s unique characteristics – because both avatar and patient have the same cancer type, down to the same mix of genetic mutations. Dr Simon Robinson is leading a team that will use advanced imaging technologies (such as MRI, PET, CT), and a state-of-the-art radiation research platform within the new Centre for Cancer Imaging at the ICR, to develop ways of assessing tumour response to the new agents within these avatars, thus speeding up the time taken to get them into clinical trials for cancer patients.
Oracle, through its many smaller donations from supporters, is funding the costs of a PhD student to work in Dr Robinson’s team over a four year period ending in 2019. Elise Lepicard was awarded this Oracle Studentship and started in her role on 1st February 2016. This project has been kindly part-funded by the following trusts:
- The Hospital Saturday Fund
- The Steel Charitable Trust
- The Mason Le Page Charitable Trust
- The Worshipful Company of Grocers
- Sir Samuel Scott of Yews Trust
- The Aubrey Orchard-Lisle Charitable Trust
Throughout the last year Elise has continued to investigate an innovative imaging technique called Oxygen-Enhanced MRI (OE-MRI) to rapidly assess the distribution and extent of hypoxia in models of head and neck cancer. The OE-MRI technique has been successfully implemented on a clinical scanner and Elise has been supporting its development and application for imaging hypoxia in patients. This approach could help provide tailored treatment to patients by:
- Identifying tumours likely to respond to radiotherapy
- Mapping the degree of hypoxia for radiotherapy treatment plans
- Monitoring the effectiveness of new strategies designed to modify tumour hypoxia to improve response to radiotherapy
Elise’s work has contributed to her supervisor, Dr. Robinson’s successful CR-UK Programme Grant application, which includes pre-clinical studies to develop OE-MRI as an adaptive imaging strategy for radiotherapy.
On top of this, OE-MRI also has considerable potential for delivering functional MRI guided radiotherapy on the MR-Linac platform, as described in Jennifer’s project. Elise is supporting the team focusing on developing functional MRI methods, including OE-MRI, on the MR-Linac system.
Dr Simon Robinson
Length of project:
The Institute of Cancer Research
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Oracle Cancer Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales (1142037). A company limited by guarantee. Registered company in England and Wales (7125497). Registered address: 10 Parsons Green House, 27 Parsons Green Lane, London SW6 4HH.